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28 Mar 23:50

Amsterdam launches stay away ad campaign targeting young British men

Maxim Bange

quote: "Others seem sceptical of the campaign, with one woman writing: "They want to make money with families and museums but they know it's weed and red light that keep the city running.""

The Dutch city targets UK men aged 18-35 in an ad campaign aimed at changing its reputation.
18 Mar 19:55

UN nuclear watchdog: 2.5 tons of uranium missing in Libya

by The Associated Press
Some 2.5 tons of natural uranium stored in a site in war-torn Libya have gone missing, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said Thursday, raising safety and proliferation concerns.
10 Mar 21:48

Scientists Discover Enzyme That Turns Air Into Electricity

by BeauHD
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Australian scientists have discovered an enzyme that converts air into energy. The finding, published in the journal Nature, reveals that this enzyme uses the low amounts of the hydrogen in the atmosphere to create an electrical current. This finding opens the way to create devices that literally make energy from thin air. The research team, led by Dr. Rhys Grinter, Ph.D. student Ashleigh Kropp, and Professor Chris Greening from the Monash University Biomedicine Discovery Institute in Melbourne, Australia, produced and analyzed a hydrogen-consuming enzyme from a common soil bacterium. In this Nature paper, the researchers extracted the enzyme responsible for using atmospheric hydrogen from a bacterium called Mycobacterium smegmatis. They showed that this enzyme, called Huc, turns hydrogen gas into an electrical current. Dr. Grinter notes, "Huc is extraordinarily efficient. Unlike all other known enzymes and chemical catalysts, it even consumes hydrogen below atmospheric levels -- as little as 0.00005% of the air we breathe." The researchers used several cutting-edge methods to reveal the molecular blueprint of atmospheric hydrogen oxidation. They used advanced microscopy (cryo-EM) to determine its atomic structure and electrical pathways, pushing boundaries to produce the most resolved enzyme structure reported by this method to date. They also used a technique called electrochemistry to demonstrate the purified enzyme creates electricity at minute hydrogen concentrations. Laboratory work performed by Kropp shows that it is possible to store purified Huc for long periods. "It is astonishingly stable. It is possible to freeze the enzyme or heat it to 80 degrees celsius, and it retains its power to generate energy," Kropp said. "This reflects that this enzyme helps bacteria to survive in the most extreme environments. " Huc is a "natural battery" that produces a sustained electrical current from air or added hydrogen. While this research is at an early stage, the discovery of Huc has considerable potential to develop small air-powered devices, for example as an alternative to solar-powered devices. "Once we produce Huc in sufficient quantities, the sky is quite literally the limit for using it to produce clean energy."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

07 Mar 20:57

Japan's H3 Rocket Explodes. It's a Win for SpaceX and Even Mitsubishi.

Japan's H3 rocket, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, failed to reach orbit in its maiden flight, prompting a dramatic self-destruct command. It's not all bad.
25 Feb 17:46

Researchers Have Successfully Grown Electrodes In Living Tissue

by BeauHD
Researchers at Linkoping, Lund and Gothenburg universities in Sweden have successfully grown electrodes in living tissue using the body's molecules as triggers. The result, published in the journal Science, paves the way for the formation of fully integrated electronic circuits in living organisms. Phys.Org reports: Linking electronics to biological tissue is important to understanding complex biological functions, combating diseases in the brain, and developing future interfaces between man and machine. However, conventional bioelectronics, developed in parallel with the semiconductor industry, have a fixed and static design that is difficult, if not impossible, to combine with living biological signal systems. To bridge this gap between biology and technology, researchers have developed a method for creating soft, substrate-free, electronically conductive materials in living tissue. By injecting a gel containing enzymes as the "assembly molecules," the researchers were able to grow electrodes in the tissue of zebrafish and medicinal leeches. "Contact with the body's substances changes the structure of the gel and makes it electrically conductive, which it isn't before injection. Depending on the tissue, we can also adjust the composition of the gel to get the electrical process going," says Xenofon Strakosas, researcher at LOE and Lund University and one of the study's main authors. The body's endogenous molecules are enough to trigger the formation of electrodes. There is no need for genetic modification or external signals, such as light or electrical energy, which has been necessary in previous experiments. The Swedish researchers are the first in the world to succeed in this. In their study, the researchers further show that the method can target the electronically conducting material to specific biological substructures and thereby create suitable interfaces for nerve stimulation. In the long term, the fabrication of fully integrated electronic circuits in living organisms may be possible. In experiments conducted at Lund University, the team successfully achieved electrode formation in the brain, heart, and tail fins of zebrafish and around the nervous tissue of medicinal leeches. The animals were not harmed by the injected gel and were otherwise not affected by the electrode formation. One of the many challenges in these trials was to take the animals' immune system into account.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

09 Feb 17:57

Wind Turbine Giant Develops Solution To Keep Blades Out of Landfills

by BeauHD
Vestas, the world's largest producer of wind turbines, says it has developed a chemical solution that allows the blades -- made with durable epoxy resin -- to be broken down and recycled. Bloomberg reports: "This signals a new era for the wind industry," Vestas said in a statement. If it's implemented at scale, the technology can be used on both old blades sitting in landfills and those in active wind farms, the company added. It's a potential solution for what could be a massive sustainability problem for the wind industry. Industry body Wind Europe has previously estimated that about 25,000 metric tons of blades a year will be decommissioned by 2025, rising to 52,000 tons a year by 2030. The group has called on European authorities to ban blades from going into landfills. Vestas's process is the result of joint initiative including Denmark's Aarhus University and US-based Olin Corp. The company now plans to move it from the lab to a pilot project for two years, before rolling it out on a commercial scale. Its cost hasn't been disclosed.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

04 Jan 21:18

How To Use Microsoft PowerToys to Improve Productivity

by Russell Smith

Microsoft PowerToys is a free download for Windows that adds features for power users that are not included in Windows 10 or Windows 11 by default. In this article, I’ll show you my favorite PowerToys tools and why once you start using them, you won’t be able to live without them.

What is Microsoft PowerToys?

Microsoft PowerToys is a free set of tools for Windows 10 and Windows 11. The tools are designed to improve your workflows in Windows for increased productivity. You can download PowerToys from GitHub. Alternatively, PowerToys can also be installed using the Microsoft Store.

Download PowerToys from the Microsoft Store
Download PowerToys from the Microsoft Store (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

What tools are included in PowerToys?

Currently, PowerToys includes 17 tools:

Always On Top
Color Picker
File Locksmith
File Explorer add-ons
Hosts File Editor
Image Resizer
Keyboard Manager
Mouse utilities
PowerToys Run
Quick Accent
Screen Ruler
Shortcut Guide
Text Extractor
Video Conference Mute

17 tools that make up Microsoft PowerToys

Most of the tools are self-explanatory from their name. But others require a little explanation.


FancyZones is useful for those with large displays. It’s a window manager the lets you customize layouts for arranging and snapping windows, and to restore your layouts quickly.


Awake lets you override the selected power plan settings in Windows to make sure your PC doesn’t go to sleep while you’re performing an important task.

File Locksmith

File Locksmith lets you check which files are currently in use, and by which processes, through a Windows shell extension.

File Locksmith
File Locksmith (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

Hosts File Editor

If you don’t know what the hosts file is, you probably don’t need to read about this tool further. But it is a tool that lets you easily and quickly edit the hosts file, which contains a list IP addresses and matching domain names used for DNS resolution.

Quick Accent

An accent is a small mark above a letter that usually indicates which vowel should be stressed when the word is pronounced. If you don’t have a keyboard that supports stressed characters, you can use this tool instead.

PowerToys Run

PowerToys Run is launcher for power users that lets you search for apps, files, folders, running processes, and perform a whole load of other tasks including:

  • Execute system commands
  • Open webpages or perform a web search
  • Convert units
  • Return time and date information
  • Perform simple calculations

How to use Microsoft PowerToys

Once you have installed PowerToys on your system, you can access it by pressing the WIN key, typing PowerToys, and selecting it from the list of search results under Best match.

Launch PowerToys from the Start menu
Launch PowerToys from the Start menu (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

Alternatively, you should find the PowerToys icon in the system tray. Double click it to open PowerToys.

Launch PowerToys from the system tray
Launch PowerToys from the system tray (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

In the PowerToys app, there is a page with general settings. The general settings page lets you check for updates, run the tool as an administrator, and change the Windows Theme used by PowerToys.

General settings page in PowerToys
General settings page in PowerToys (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

There are also settings pages for each PowerToys tool. Some tools are turned on by default. Others you will need to manually enable. All the tools can be enabled or disabled as you prefer.

Most of the tools are associated with a keyboard shortcut that can be used to launch them. You can either accept the default shortcut or assign your own.

I’m going to explain a little more about how to use my favorite PowerToys tools and why I find them useful.

PowerToys Run

Windows doesn’t have a built-in application launcher like Alfred in macOS. So, if you’re coming from a mac, you’ll find this especially useful. One of the main frustrations I have with Windows is quickly finding and switching to open browser tabs. Very often, I’ll have many tabs open across different browser windows and even different browser profiles – I have one profile for work and another for everything else.

While Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge both have a built-in feature for searching open tabs (CTRL+SHIFT+A), it doesn’t work cross profile. For example, if I need to find a tab that’s open on my work profile but I’m searching from my personal browser profile, CTRL+SHIFT+A doesn’t help much.

PowerToys, using a feature that was previously called Windows Walker, can however search open tabs regardless of which instance of the browser they are running in.

For example, I know I have a tab open called ‘Keyword Research Prototype’, but I’ve no idea where it’s running. All I need to do is type the name of the webpage I’m looking for into PowerShell Run, which I activate by pressing ALT + SPACE, up it comes and I can switch straight to the open browser tab.

Search for an open browser tab using PowerToys Run
Search for an open browser tab using PowerToys Run (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

As you can see from the search results, you can also use it to perform a web search or search OneNote Notes, and much more. But the ability to search open browser tabs is my favorite use of Run and it saves a lot of time when I have many tabs open.

The search experience for open browser tabs in PowerToys Run isn’t perfect but more often than not, it will allow me to quickly find what I’m looking for. If you only have a single browser profile in Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge, then the built-in tab search is probably your best bet.


Awake lets you prevent Windows from sleeping without having to change the power settings. In many cases, applications block Windows sleeping if an important task is in progress, like during a Teams meeting or when you are presenting a PowerPoint deck.

But there are situations where you might want to manually prevent sleep. For instance, when I’m using a video editor I want to prevent my PC from going to sleep. The editor doesn’t handle resuming from sleep well.

Awake allows me to block sleep mode quickly and easily by simply enabling the tool in the PowerToys app and then selecting either Keep awake indefinitely or Keep awake temporarily and setting a time.

Awake prevents your system sleeping
Awake prevents your system sleeping (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

Color Picker

If you ever need to do design work, you may need to match colors or copy a color to make sure you keep a new design on brand. Having the ability to understand the hex, RGB, or HSL code for a color can speed up your process.

Color Picker allows you to sample a graphic, or any part of the screen, and then have the color returned in one of the formats I mentioned above. The tool is activated using a keyboard shortcut that you can define. By default the shortcut is WIN+SHIFT+C.

PowerToys Color Picker
PowerToys Color Picker (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

Image Resizer

Occasionally, I need to quickly resize an image, either because the dimensions are wrong or it is too big to upload. Image Resizer is built into Explorer and it allows you to quickly resize an image by right clicking the file in File Explorer and then selecting Resize picture.

Select the new image size
Select the new image size (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

You then choose from a list of predefined sizes and click OK. You can define your own size options in the PowerToys app and configure the encoding quality. It’s faster and simpler than opening your image editor.

Image Resizer
Image Resizer (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

Mouse Utilities

Last but not least, I use the Mouse Highlighter tool that’s part of Mouse utilities. It’s useful to highlight the mouse when recording tutorial videos because it helps guide the viewer’s eye as you move the pointer around the screen.

PowerToys Mouse Utilities
PowerToys Mouse Utilities (Image Credit: Petri/Russell Smith)

The default activation keyboard shortcut is WIN+SHIFT+H. You have to left click the mouse to get the highlighter to appear.

PowerToys has a tool for everyone

PowerToys contains a host of useful tools. I’ve just covered a few of my favorite in this article. But depending on how you use your PC, these or other tools might prove to be useful. Let me know in the comments below if you use PowerToys and what you think of the toolset.

14 Dec 23:03

A completely free Unreal Tournament 3 just leaked on Steam

by Sean Hollister
Gritty sci-fi warriors running with space guns.
The goo gun was the best. | Image: Epic Games

Epic just closed some doors, but it may be opening a very attractive window indeed. Today, it appears to have inadvertently announced a new completely free version of the excellent Unreal Tournament 3 that you’ll be able to crossplay with friends across Steam, the Epic Games Store, and even GOG (via Wario64).

It’s called Unreal Tournament 3 X, and according to its Steam page, there’s no catch — “No microtransactions and no strings attached. This is the fully-featured, award-winning first-person shooter you fell in love with... completely free.”

Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge
The Unreal Tournament 3 X page on Steam. Tap here to open a larger image.

And, assuming the listing is accurate, the game...

Continue reading…

13 Dec 12:35

Obligatory ChatGPT Post

by Bruce Schneier

Seems like absolutely everyone everywhere is playing with Chat GPT.

So I did, too….

Write an essay in the style of Bruce Schneier on how ChatGPT will affect cybersecurity.

As with any new technology, the development and deployment of ChatGPT is likely to have a significant impact on the field of cybersecurity. In many ways, ChatGPT and other AI technologies hold great promise for improving the ability of organizations and individuals to defend against cyber threats. At the same time, however, the use of these technologies also raises important questions and concerns about the potential risks and challenges they may pose.

One of the key ways in which ChatGPT is likely to affect cybersecurity is by enabling organizations to more quickly and accurately identify potential security threats. With its ability to analyze vast amounts of data and identify patterns and trends that might be difficult for humans to spot, ChatGPT could be a valuable tool for detecting and responding to cyberattacks. This could be especially useful in the case of complex, coordinated attacks that might otherwise be difficult to identify and defend against.

Another potential benefit of ChatGPT in the realm of cybersecurity is its ability to improve communication and coordination among different organizations and agencies. By enabling these groups to more easily share information and work together to defend against cyber threats, ChatGPT could help to make the overall cybersecurity landscape more effective and efficient. This could be especially important in the case of large-scale attacks that require a coordinated response from multiple organizations.

Of course, as with any new technology, there are also potential risks and challenges associated with the use of ChatGPT in the field of cybersecurity. One key concern is the potential for ChatGPT to be used by malicious actors to conduct cyberattacks. By automating the process of planning and executing attacks, ChatGPT could make it easier for attackers to carry out sophisticated, coordinated attacks at a much faster pace than would be possible without AI. This could potentially make it more difficult for organizations and individuals to defend against such attacks.

Another potential risk is the possibility that ChatGPT could be used to create fake news or propaganda, which could be used to spread misinformation or confusion. In the context of cybersecurity, the spread of false information could potentially lead to confusion and panic, making it more difficult for organizations and individuals to respond effectively to cyber threats. Additionally, the use of ChatGPT to create fake news or propaganda could also undermine trust in information and communications systems, potentially undermining the overall security of these systems.

Overall, the development and deployment of ChatGPT is likely to have a significant impact on the field of cybersecurity. While ChatGPT and other AI technologies hold great promise for improving the ability of organizations and individuals to defend against cyber threats, it is important to carefully consider the potential risks and challenges they may pose, and to take appropriate measures to mitigate these risks. This may include implementing strict security protocols and safeguards to prevent unauthorized access to ChatGPT and other AI systems, as well as ongoing monitoring and evaluation to ensure that these technologies are being used in a safe and responsible manner.

Not bad. I don’t think I can retire, but I probably can go on vacation for a few days. And, of course, it’s going to get better…a lot better…and probably sooner than we expect. This is a big deal.

12 Dec 18:25

Apple Is Finally Encrypting iCloud Backups

by Bruce Schneier

After way too many years, Apple is finally encrypting iCloud backups:

Based on a screenshot from Apple, these categories are covered when you flip on Advanced Data Protection: device backups, messages backups, iCloud Drive, Notes, Photos, Reminders, Safari bookmarks, Siri Shortcuts, Voice Memos, and Wallet Passes. Apple says the only “major” categories not covered by Advanced Data Protection are iCloud Mail, Contacts, and Calendar because “of the need to interoperate with the global email, contacts, and calendar systems,” according to its press release.

You can see the full list of data categories and what is protected under standard data protection, which is the default for your account, and Advanced Data Protection on Apple’s website.

With standard data protection, Apple holds the encryption keys for things that aren’t end-to-end encrypted, which means the company can help you recover that data if needed. Data that’s end-to-end encrypted can only be encrypted on “your trusted devices where you’re signed in with your Apple ID,” according to Apple, meaning that the company—or law enforcement or hackers—cannot access your data from Apple’s databases.

Note that this system doesn’t have the backdoor that was in Apple’s previous proposal, the one put there under the guise of detecting CSAM.

Apple says that it will roll out worldwide by the end of next year. I wonder how China will react to this.

12 Dec 07:25

In Fusion Breakthrough, US Scientists Reportedly Produce Reaction With Net Energy Gain

by EditorDavid
"U.S. scientists have reportedly carried out the first nuclear fusion experiment to achieve a net energy gain," reports the Independent, "a major breakthrough in a field that has been pursuing such a result since the 1950s, and a potential milestone in the search for a climate-friendly, renewable energy source to replace fossil fuels." The experiment took place in recent weeks at the government-funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where researchers used a process known as inertial confinement fusion, the Financial Times reports, citing three people with knowledge of the experiment's preliminary results. The test involved bombarding a pellet of hydrogen plasma with the world's largest laser to trigger a nuclear fusion reaction, the same process which takes place in the sun. Researchers were able to produce 2.5 megajoules of energy, 120 per cent of the 2.1 megajoules used to power the experiment. The laboratory confirmed to the FT it had recently conducted a "successful" experiment at the National Ignition Facility, but declined to comment further, citing the preliminary nature of the data.... "Scientists have struggled to show that fusion can release more energy out than is put in since the 1950s, and the researchers at Lawrence Livermore seem to have finally and absolutely smashed this decades-old goal," Arthur Turrell, deputy director of the UK Office for National Statistics, wrote on Twitter on Sunday. "This experimental result will electrify efforts to eventually power the planet with nuclear fusion — at a time when we've never needed a plentiful source of carbon-free energy more!" But "the resources needed to recreate the reaction on the scale required to make fusion practical for energy production are immense," reports the Washington Post: More importantly, engineers have yet to develop machinery capable of affordably turning that reaction into electricity that can be practically deployed to the power grid. Building devices that are large enough to create fusion power at scale, scientists say, would require materials that are extraordinarily difficult to produce. At the same time, the reaction creates neutrons that put a tremendous amount of stress on the equipment creating it, such that it can get destroyed in the process. And then there is the question of whether the technology could be perfected in time to make a dent in climate change. Even so, researchers and investors in fusion technology hailed the breakthrough as an important advancement.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

07 Dec 13:15

The Decoupling Principle

by Bruce Schneier

This is a really interesting paper that discusses what the authors call the Decoupling Principle:

The idea is simple, yet previously not clearly articulated: to ensure privacy, information should be divided architecturally and institutionally such that each entity has only the information they need to perform their relevant function. Architectural decoupling entails splitting functionality for different fundamental actions in a system, such as decoupling authentication (proving who is allowed to use the network) from connectivity (establishing session state for communicating). Institutional decoupling entails splitting what information remains between non-colluding entities, such as distinct companies or network operators, or between a user and network peers. This decoupling makes service providers individually breach-proof, as they each have little or no sensitive data that can be lost to hackers. Put simply, the Decoupling Principle suggests always separating who you are from what you do.

Lots of interesting details in the paper.

07 Dec 12:28

Gut Bacteria Are Linked To Depression

by BeauHD
Two studies published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications found a link between several types of bacteria in the gut and depressive symptoms. The first study, titled "Gut microbiome-wide association study of depressive symptoms," reports: Here we investigate the relation of fecal microbiome diversity and composition with depressive symptoms in 1,054 participants from the Rotterdam Study cohort and validate these findings in the Amsterdam HELIUS cohort in 1,539 subjects. We identify association of thirteen microbial taxa, including genera Eggerthella, Subdoligranulum, Coprococcus, Sellimonas, Lachnoclostridium, Hungatella, Ruminococcaceae (UCG002, UCG003 and UCG005), LachnospiraceaeUCG001, Eubacterium ventriosum and Ruminococcusgauvreauiigroup, and family Ruminococcaceae with depressive symptoms. These bacteria are known to be involved in the synthesis of glutamate, butyrate, serotonin and gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), which are key neurotransmitters for depression. Our study suggests that the gut microbiome composition may play a key role in depression. The second study, titled "The gut microbiota and depressive symptoms across ethnic groups," reports: Both the microbiome and depressive symptom levels vary substantially across ethnic groups. Thus, any intervention for depression targeting the microbiome requires understanding of microbiome-depression associations across ethnicities. Analyzing data from the HELIUS cohort, we characterize the gut microbiota and its associations with depressive symptoms in 6 ethnic groups (Dutch, South-Asian Surinamese, African Surinamese, Ghanaian, Turkish, Moroccan; N=3211), living in the same urban area. Diversity of the gut microbiota, both within (a-diversity) and between individuals (B-diversity), predicts depressive symptom levels, taking into account demographic, behavioural, and medical differences. These associations do not differ between ethnic groups. Further, B-diversity explains 29%-18% of the ethnic differences in depressive symptoms. Bacterial genera associated with depressive symptoms belong to mulitple families, prominently including the families Christensenellaceae, Lachnospiraceae, and Ruminococcaceae. In summary, the results show that the gut microbiota are linked to depressive symptom levels and that this association generalizes across ethnic groups. Moreover, the results suggest that ethnic differences in the gut microbiota may partly explain parallel disparities in depression. The Wall Street Journal shared (paywalled) the findings.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

28 Nov 10:56

PSA: Do Not Use Services That Hate The Internet

by jwz
mkalus shared this story from jwz.

Don't make me tap the sign: app-only interfaces are not a part of the World Wide Web. As you look around for a new social media platform, I implore you, only use one that is a part of the World Wide Web.

tl;dr avoid Hive and Post.

If posts in a social media app do not have URLs that can be linked to and viewed in an unauthenticated browser, or if there is no way to make a new post from a browser, then that program is not a part of the World Wide Web in any meaningful way.

Consign that app to oblivion.

Most social media services want to lock you in. They love their walled gardens and they think that so long as they tightly control their users and make it hard for them to escape, they will rule the world forever.

This was the business model of Compuserve. And AOL. And then a little thing called The Internet got popular for a minute in the mid 1990s, and that plan suddenly didn't work out so well for those captains of industry.

The thing that makes the Internet useful is interoperability. These companies hate that. The thing that makes the Internet become more useful is the open source notion that there will always be more smart people who don't work for your company than that do, and some of those people will find ways to expand on your work in ways you never anticipated. These companies hate that, too. They'd rather you have nothing than that you have something they don't own.

Instagram started this trend: they didn't even have a web site until 2012. It was phone-app-onlly. They were dragged kicking and screaming onto the World Wide Web by, ironically, Facebook, who bought them to eliminate them as competition.

Hive Social is exactly this app-only experience. Do not use Hive. Anyone letting that app -- or anything like it -- get its hooks into them is making a familiar and terrible mistake. We've been here before. Don't let it happen again.

John Ripley:

So many people, who should know better, blogging about their switch to Hive on the basis of user experience or some other vacuous crap, and not fundamentals like, "Is this monetized, and if not yet, when how and who?" or "who runs this?" or "is it sane to choose another set of castle walls to live as a peasant within?"

Post Dot News also seems absolutely vile.

First of all, Marc Andreessen is an investor, and there is no redder red flag than that. "How much more red? None. None more red", as Spinal Tap would say. He's a right wing reactionary whose idea of "free speech" is in line with Musk, Trump, Thiel and the rest of the Klept.

Second, it appears to be focused on "micropayments", which these days means "cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes", another of marca's favorite grifts.

They call themselves "a platform for real people, civil conversations". So, Real Names Policy and tone policing by rich white dudes is how I translate that. But hey, at least their TOS says they won't discriminate against billionaires:

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of their gender, religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, net worth, or beliefs.

Mastodon is kind of a mess right now, and maybe it will not turn out to be what you or I are looking for. But to its credit, interoperability is at its core, rather than being something that the VCs will just take away when it no longer serves their growth or onboarding projections.

There is a long history of these data silos (and very specifically Facebook, Google and Twitter) being interoperable, federating, providing APIs and allowing others to build alternate interfaces -- until they don't. They keep up that charade while they are small and growing, and drop it as soon as they think they can get away with it, locking you inside.

Incidentally, and tangentially relatedly, Signal is not a messaging program but rather is a sketchy-as-fuck growth-at-any-cost social network. Fuck Signal too.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

28 Nov 10:51

Apple Hobbled Protesters' Tool in China Weeks Before Widespread Protests

by EditorDavid
"China's control of the internet has become so strong that dissidents must cling to any crack in the so-called Great Firewall," writes Qz. But as anti-government protests sprung up on campuses and cities in China over the weekend, Qz reminds us that "the country's most widespread show of public dissent in decades will have to manage without a crucial communication tool, because Apple restricted its use in China earlier this month." AirDrop, the file-sharing feature on iPhones and other Apple devices, has helped protestors in many authoritarian countries evade censorship. That's because AirDrop relies on direct connections between phones, forming a local network of devices that don't need the internet to communicate. People can opt into receiving AirDrops from anyone else with an iPhone nearby. That changed on Nov. 9, when Apple released a new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 16.1.1, to customers worldwide. Rather than listing new features, as it often does, the company simply said, "This update includes bug fixes and security updates and is recommended for all users." Hidden in the update was a change that only applies to iPhones sold in mainland China: AirDrop can only be set to receive messages from everyone for 10 minutes, before switching off. There's no longer a way to keep the "everyone" setting on permanently on Chinese iPhones. The change, first noticed by Chinese readers of 9to5Mac, doesn't apply anywhere else. Apple didn't respond to questions about the AirDrop change. It plans to make the "Everyone for 10 Minutes" feature a global standard next year, according to Bloomberg.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

21 Nov 07:48

Europe’s security is at stake in Moldova

by Maia Sandu

Maia Sandu is the president of the Republic of Moldova.

Three decades ago, Moldovans chose freedom and democracy over authoritarianism. And today, we’re moving decisively toward the European Union.

But with Russia’s brutal aggression against our neighbor Ukraine, our country now faces dramatic costs and heightened risks threatening to derail our chosen path, weakening Europe’s security.

Moldova is a dynamic democracy in what has become a dangerous neighborhood.

Over the past year, we’ve been building stronger institutions, fighting corruption and supporting the post-pandemic recovery. As a result, our economy grew by 14 percent in 2021; we jumped 49 ranks on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index; and our anti-money laundering rating was upgraded by the Council of Europe.

In recognition of our implementation of difficult reforms in a challenging geopolitical context, the EU granted Moldova candidate status for membership this June. But instead of enjoying the benefits of deeper European integration, Moldovans are now struggling to cope with an acute energy crisis, a severe economic downturn and massive security threats.

Many, if not all, European nations are currently facing serious energy pressures, of course — but ours are existential. The legacy of almost full dependence on Russia for gas and electricity, and the failure by successive governments to diversify supplies, is now threatening our economic survival.

As of November, Russia’s bombing of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, alongside Gazprom halving natural gas exports, has eliminated power from our previous sources of imported electricity. 

In response, the government has adopted energy austerity measures and switched some industries to alternative fuels. Longer-term energy security measures, including an electricity interconnection with Romania, will yield results but only in only a few years.

Friends and partners are also providing support to the best of their abilities.

Romania, our good neighbor and strong supporter, has stepped in, with electricity exports now accounting for about 80 percent of Moldova’s current consumption. Meanwhile, on a recent visit to Chișinău, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced fresh assistance to help ameliorate Moldova’s crisis, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has thrown a lifeline to finance emergency gas supplies.

Today, French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a meeting of the Moldova Support Platform — an initiative led by France, Germany and Romania.

The forum aims to mobilize much-needed support ahead of what is likely to be a precarious winter. Moldova is looking to finance its gas and electricity purchases from new sources and assist social schemes for the most vulnerable, which will help cushion price increases. Over the past 12 months, the price of gas in our country grew seven times over, while the price of electricity saw a four-fold increase. This winter, Moldovans are likely to spend up to 65 percent of their income on energy bills.

If we can light and heat homes in our country and make sure that schools and hospitals can still operate and the economy’s wheels keep turning, this would mean that Moldovans — alongside Ukrainians — need not seek refuge elsewhere in Europe during this upcoming cold season.

Even before winter fully sets in, the energy crisis and the economic fallout from the war next door are already having a significant impact on people’s lives, the country’s economy and our future growth. Inflation is approaching 35 percent; prices have skyrocketed; trade routes are disrupted; and investor sentiment has weakened. As a result, the economy is likely to contract.

Meanwhile, Russia’s proxies and criminal groups have joined forces to exploit the energy crisis and fuel discontent. They hope to foment political turmoil. Using the entire spectrum of hybrid threats — including fake bomb alerts, cyberattacks, disinformation, calls for social unrest and unconcealed bribery — they are working to destabilize the government, erode our democracy and jeopardize Moldova’s contribution to Europe’s wider security.

Our vulnerabilities could weaken Ukraine’s resilience, as well as stability on the rest of the continent.

While we are Ukraine’s most vulnerable neighbor, we also secure its second-longest border — after the one it has with Russia. Across these 1,222 kilometers, Moldova is a frontline state in the fight against weapons, drugs and human trafficking.

Since the beginning of the war, we’ve worked hard to maintain stability in the breakaway Transnistrian region, which shares a border over 450 kilometers long with Ukraine and where 1,600 Russian troops are stationed illegally. We’ve managed to keep the situation calm.

We also provide essential supply routes to and from Ukraine — a significant part of Ukrainian trade, including grains, go through Moldova.

Additionally, our country has sheltered more than 650,000 refugees since the first days of the Russian invasion. So far, over 80,000 of them have chosen to stay, and we’re preparing to host more in the winter, should they need to flee a military escalation or lack of heat, electricity and water.

Europe and Ukraine need a strong Moldova. Strong enough to support Ukraine during the war. Strong enough to maintain peace and stability in our region. Strong enough to shelter refugees. And strong enough to become a natural hub for the reconstruction of southern Ukraine after the war.

Just as Russia mustn’t be allowed to win in Ukraine, its hybrid techniques mustn’t be allowed to succeed in Moldova. We will do our part to defend European values despite the privations imposed on us. The price is heavy, and we are prepared to carry the burden.

But we can’t do this alone.

15 Nov 17:06

Another Event-Related Spyware App

by Bruce Schneier

Last month, we were warned not to install Qatar’s World Cup app because it was spyware. This month, it’s Egypt’s COP27 Summit app:

The app is being promoted as a tool to help attendees navigate the event. But it risks giving the Egyptian government permission to read users’ emails and messages. Even messages shared via encrypted services like WhatsApp are vulnerable, according to POLITICO’s technical review of the application, and two of the outside experts.

The app also provides Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which created it, with other so-called backdoor privileges, or the ability to scan people’s devices.

On smartphones running Google’s Android software, it has permission to potentially listen into users’ conversations via the app, even when the device is in sleep mode, according to the three experts and POLITICO’s separate analysis. It can also track people’s locations via smartphone’s built-in GPS and Wi-Fi technologies, according to two of the analysts.

14 Nov 23:13

A Digital Red Cross

by Bruce Schneier

The International Committee of the Red Cross wants some digital equivalent to the iconic red cross, to alert would-be hackers that they are accessing a medical network.

The emblem wouldn’t provide technical cybersecurity protection to hospitals, Red Cross infrastructure or other medical providers, but it would signal to hackers that a cyberattack on those protected networks during an armed conflict would violate international humanitarian law, experts say, Tilman Rodenhäuser, a legal adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross, said at a panel discussion hosted by the organization on Thursday.

I can think of all sorts of problems with this idea and many reasons why it won’t work, but those also apply to the physical red cross on buildings, vehicles, and people’s clothing. So let’s try it.

EDITED TO ADD: Original reference.

13 Nov 10:21

New Quick Assist app will soon be integrated into Windows

by Martin Brinkmann

Microsoft announced the retiring of the integrated Quick Assist application of the Windows operating system in May 2022. Quick Assist is a remote assistance application, which may be used to get or give assistance. It is commonly used by technicians to provide remote assistance to an organization's workforce.

quick assist

Microsoft decided to retire Quick Assist and replace it with a new Microsoft Store version. Windows users who attempt to launch Quick Assist on their devices right now get a prompt stating that there is a new version available on the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft explained back then that the new application would enable it to patch security issues and other issues more quickly in the future.

Administrators were not too happy with the change. Two main points of criticism were leveled at Microsoft. First, that the installation of the new Quick Assist required administrative privileges, and second, that one could not be sure anymore if Quick Assist was available on a user device. The latter required additional assistance to get the new version of the application on the user's device.

Microsoft released a new Windows 10 version 22H2 build and a new Windows 11 build to the Release Preview Insider channel this week; these builds add the new Microsoft Store Quick Assist application as a native app back in the operating system.

The new version will replace the classic version of Quick Assist, which can't be run anymore anyway, on the target system. Quick Assist can then be launched via the Start Menu or by using its dedicated keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Windows-Q.

Release Preview indicates that the changes will land soon in stable versions of Windows 10 and 11. Microsoft has yet to announce when this will happen though. Windows users may install the Microsoft Store application manually at any time to get access to Quick Assist right away.

You can check out the Insider Preview build announcements for Windows 10 and Windows 11 here.

Now You: have you used Quick Assist or another remote assistance tool in the past?

Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post New Quick Assist app will soon be integrated into Windows appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

12 Nov 22:03

Albert Einstein

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
31 Oct 13:13

Apple Only Commits to Patching Latest OS Version

by Bruce Schneier

People have suspected this for a while, but Apple has made it official. It only commits to fully patching the latest version of its OS, even though it claims to support older versions.

From ArsTechnica:

In other words, while Apple will provide security-related updates for older versions of its operating systems, only the most recent upgrades will receive updates for every security problem Apple knows about. Apple currently provides security updates to macOS 11 Big Sur and macOS 12 Monterey alongside the newly released macOS Ventura, and in the past, it has released security updates for older iOS versions for devices that can’t install the latest upgrades.

This confirms something that independent security researchers have been aware of for a while but that Apple hasn’t publicly articulated before. Intego Chief Security Analyst Joshua Long has tracked the CVEs patched by different macOS and iOS updates for years and generally found that bugs patched in the newest OS versions can go months before being patched in older (but still ostensibly “supported”) versions, when they’re patched at all.

31 Oct 11:03

Learned Helpfulness

by (Peter Rukavina)

Learned helplessness is an interesting idea, and Wikipedia sums up current thinking well:

Learned helplessness is the behavior exhibited by a subject after enduring repeated aversive stimuli beyond their control. It was initially thought to be caused by the subject’s acceptance of their powerlessness: discontinuing attempts to escape or avoid the aversive stimulus, even when such alternatives are unambiguously presented. Upon exhibiting such behaviour, the subject was said to have acquired learned helplessness. Over the past few decades, neuroscience has provided insight into learned helplessness and shown that the original theory had it backward: the brain’s default state is to assume that control is not present, and the presence of “helpfulness” is what is learned first. However, it is unlearned when a subject is faced with prolonged aversive stimulation.

In other words: we learn that we’ve got control, and when things go sideways, over and over again, we unlearn it.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I’ve been finding myself perplexingly incapable of late. I’m a smart guy with enormous privilege, financial resources, and I’ve been known to have moxie by times. And yet problems that, in theory, are solvable have been slaying me, and I’ve been grasping for reasons why.

Driving downtown this morning after dropping off Olivia, I was thinking about how this might relate to Catherine’s death and the grief surrounding it.

From her incurable cancer diagnosis in 2014 until her death in 2020 Catherine accepted her fate: she did not rail against the darkness, and accepted that she was going to die. I followed her into that, and while I generally regarded it as the right attitude, the only reasonable attitude, I’m wondering now whether that also constituted “enduring repeated aversive stimuli beyond my control.”

What is the long-term effect on the psyche from waking up every morning to be reminded of the everpresence of impending doom?

I notice my disability most when it comes to confronting gnarly problems with many interlinked aspects (aspects that often lead down blind alleys or into brick walls). These are the types of problems that I’ve always excelled at, earned my living from, and I’ve loved solving them. But not so much of late.

What describes the process of caring for someone living with incurable cancer better than “confronting gnarly problems with many interlinked aspects.”

I’ve lost my taste for the challenge; I’m exhausted by the gnarly.

I want things to be simple.

And yet they are not.

And so I need a new plan, one that lets me rebuild my sense of helpfulness. I need a way to route around the brick walls. To not get flummoxed and debilitated by a feeling of how-can-this-possibly-be-so-hard. To break down things into bite-sized chunks. To make maps of things that, at one time, I might have been able to hold in my head. To ask for help, over and over and over again. To release my attachment to completeness, perfection.

My brain has been changed by what I’ve been through, in ways I’m only just beginning to understand; it’s time that I accept that, and work to adapt.

18 Oct 22:23

Crypto: ‘We need to look at global regulation of crypto,’ says European Commission financial-services commissioner Mairead McGuinness

European Commission's financial services commissioner Mairead McGuinness said crypto regulation needs to be a global effort, in an interview with the FT.
12 Oct 14:39

Google's 'Incognito' Mode Inspires Staff Jokes - and a Big Lawsuit

by msmash
An email mocking Chrome browsing mode's faux privacy has surfaced in the courtroom. From a report: On International Data Privacy Day last year, an email popped into Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai's inbox from Google's marketing chief Lorraine Twohill full of ideas on gaining user trust. "Make Incognito Mode truly private," she wrote in a bullet point. "We are limited in how strongly we can market Incognito because it's not truly private, thus requiring really fuzzy, hedging language that is almost more damaging." Now, billions of dollars in damages could be at stake in a consumer lawsuit targeting the private-browsing feature if a judge agrees Tuesday to let the case proceed as a class action on behalf of millions of users. Twohill's assessment of Incognito's shortcomings was remarkably candid considering Google had already been sued at the time she messaged her boss, who himself had shepherded the feature through development back when the company launched its Chrome browser in 2008. Google denies wrongdoing. "Privacy controls have long been built into our services and we encourage our teams to constantly discuss or consider ideas to improve them," spokesman Jose Castaneda said in an email. Court filings show that well before the search engine giant was taken to court, rank and file Googlers frankly voiced their own frustrations that Incognito didn't live up to its name.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

10 Oct 20:22

Lucille Ball

"The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age."
20 Sep 22:04

Attention is not a commodity

by Doc Searls

In one of his typically trenchant posts, titled Attentive, Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) compares human attention to oil, meaning an extractive commodity:

We used to refer to an information economy. But economies are defined by scarcity, not abundance (scarcity = value), and in an age of information abundance, what’s scarce? A: Attention. The scale of the world’s largest companies, the wealth of its richest people, and the power of governments are all rooted in the extraction, monetization, and custody of attention.

I have no argument with where Scott goes in the post. He’s right about all of it. My problem is with framing it inside the ad-supported platform and services industry. Outside of that industry is actual human attention, which is not a commodity at all.

There is nothing extractive in what I’m writing now, nor in your reading of it. Even the ads you see and hear in the world are not extractive. They are many things for sure: informative, distracting, annoying, interrupting, and more. But you do not experience some kind of fungible good being withdrawn from your life, even if that’s how the ad business thinks about it.

My point here is that reducing humans to beings who are only attentive—and passively so—is radically dehumanizing, and it is important to call that out. It’s the same reductionism we get with the word “consumers,” which Jerry Michalski calls “gullets with wallets and eyeballs”: creatures with infinite appetites for everything, constantly swimming upstream through a sea of “content.” (That’s another word that insults the infinite variety of goods it represents.)

None of us want our attention extracted, processed, monetized, captured, managed, controlled, held in custody, locked in, or subjected to any of the other verb forms that the advertising world uses without cringing. That the “attention economy” produces $trillions does not mean we want to be part of it, that we like it, or that we wish for it to persist, even though we participate in it.

Like the economies of slavery, farming, and ranching, the advertising economy relies on mute, passive, and choice-less participation by the sources of the commodities it sells. Scott is right when he says “You’d never say (much of) this shit to people in person.” Because shit it is.

Scott’s focus, however, is on what the big companies do, not on what people can do on their own, as free and independent participants in networked whatever—or as human beings who don’t need platforms to be social.

At this point in history it is almost impossible to think outside of platformed living. But the Internet is still as free and open as gravity, and does not require platforms to operate. And it’s still young: at most only decades old. In how we experience it today, with ubiquitous connectivity everywhere there’s a cellular data connection, it’s a few years old, tops.

The biggest part of that economy extracts personal data as a first step toward grabbing personal attention. That is the actual extractive part of the business. Tracking follows it. Extracting data and tracking people for ad purposes is the work of what we call adtech. (And it is very different from old-fashioned brand advertising, which does want attention, but doesn’t track or target you personally. I explain the difference in Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff.)

In How the Personal Data Extraction Industry Ends, which I wrote in August 2017, I documented how adtech had grown in just a few years, and how I expected it would end when Europe’s GDPR became enforceable starting the next May.

As we now know, GDPR enforcement has done nothing to stop what has become a far more massive, and still growing, economy. At most, the GDPR and California’s CCPA have merely inconvenienced that economy, while also creating a second economy in compliance, one feature of which is the value-subtract of websites worsened by insincere and misleading consent notices.

So, what can we do?

The simple and difficult answer is to start making tools for individuals, and services leveraging those tools. These are tools empowering individuals with better ways to engage the world’s organizations, especially businesses. You’ll find a list of fourteen different kinds of such tools and services here. Build some of those and we’ll have an intention economy that will do far more for business than what it’s getting now from the attention economy, regardless of how much money that economy is making today.

19 Sep 10:31

Because We Still Have Net 1.0

by Doc Searls

That’s the flyer for the first salon in our Beyond the Web Series at the Ostrom Workshop, here at Indiana University. You can attend in person or on Zoom. Register here for that. It’s at 2 PM Eastern on Monday, September 19.

And yes, all those links are on the Web. What’s not on the Web—yet—are all the things listed here. These are things the Internet can support, because, as a World of Ends (defined and maintained by TCP/IP), it is far deeper and broader than the Web alone, no matter what version number we append to the Web.

The salon will open with an interview of yours truly by Dr. Angie Raymond, Program Director of Data Management and Information Governance at the Ostrom Workshop, and Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics in the Kelley School of Business (among too much else to list here), and quickly move forward into a discussion. Our purpose is to introduce and talk about these ideas:

  1. That free customers are more valuable—to themselves, to businesses, and to the marketplace—than captive ones.
  2. That the Internet’s original promises of personal empowerment, peer-to-peer communication, free and open markets, and other utopian ideals, can actually happen without surveillance, algorithmic nudging, and capture by giants, all of which have all become norms in these early years of our digital world.
  3. That, since the admittedly utopian ambitions behind 1 and 2 require boiling oceans, it’s a good idea to try first proving them locally, in one community, guided by Ostrom’s principles for governing a commons. Which we are doing with a new project called the Byway.

This is our second Beyond the Web Salon series. The first featured David P. Reed, Ethan Zuckerman, Robin Chase, and Shoshana Zuboff. Upcoming in this series are:

Mark your calendars for those.

And, if you’d like homework to do before Monday, here you go:

See you there!

08 Sep 19:52

Stephen Jay Gould

"The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best - and therefore never scrutinize or question."
02 Sep 16:59

Tree-Planting Schemes Are Just Creating Tree Cemeteries

by BeauHD
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VICE World News: Thousands of cylindrical plastic tree guards line the grassland here, so uniform that, from a distance, it looks like a war memorial. This open space at the edge of King's Lynn, a quiet market town in the east of England, was supposed to be a new carbon sink for Norfolk, offering 6,000 trees to tackle the climate crisis. The problem is that almost all of the trees that the guards were supposed to protect have died. Experts have told VICE World News that not only were they planted at the wrong time of year, but that they were planted on species-rich grassland that was already carbon negative, which has now been mostly destroyed by tree planting. Environmentalists also point out that the trees were planted so shallowly into the ground that most were unlikely to ever take root. By planting the seedlings in April, instead of in winter or early spring, they never had a good chance of survival anyway. A pledge to tackle the climate crisis has turned into the opposite of carbon offsetting -- all using council funding (they declined to tell VICE World News how much). "Councils don't have a lot of money," Dr Charlie Gardner, a conservation scientist and local climate activist, told me as he showed me through the site. "There was a lot of good that could have been done with that money. But it's clear to me that doing good wasn't ever an objective, it was just seen to be doing something. That's what makes me sad about the whole thing." A number of regional and national governments have announced enormous tree planting schemes in the past few years as momentum has built to tackle the climate crisis -- and many of them haven't gone to plan. Hackney Council's partnership with charity Trees for Cities, which was funded by Coca Cola's company Honest Organic, was criticized in 2020 when it appeared that most, if not all, of the 4,000 trees planted had died. Environmentalists have criticized Pakistan's "10 billion trees" project for being an expensive waste of resources and Egypt, which will host the next UN climate conference, claims it will plant 100 million trees across the country. "There are no quick fixes with this crisis," Dr Charlie Gardner, a conservation scientist and local climate activist, said. "Simply planting trees isn't the answer. If we want these trees to have a real impact, they've got to still be alive in 100 years and that means it's a 100-year commitment, not a 1-day commitment." "The most important thing is to stop burning fossil fuels. The second most important thing is conserve the nature we already have. Trying to create new nature to absorb our fossil fuel emissions is way down the list of priorities."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

29 Aug 07:48

Subtracting devices

by Jon Udell

People who don’t listen to podcasts often ask people who do: “When do you find time to listen?” For me it’s always on long walks or hikes. (I do a lot of cycling too, and have thought about listening then, but wind makes that impractical and cars make it dangerous.) For many years my trusty podcast player was one or another version of the Creative Labs MuVo which, as the ad says, is “ideal for dynamic environments.”

At some point I opted for the convenience of just using my phone. Why carry an extra, single-purpose device when the multi-purpose phone can do everything? That was OK until my Quixotic attachment to Windows Phone became untenable. Not crazy about either of the alternatives, I flipped a coin and wound up with an iPhone. Which, of course, lacks a 3.5mm audio jack. So I got an adapter, but now the setup was hardly “ideal for dynamic environments.” My headset’s connection to the phone was unreliable, and I’d often have to stop walking, reseat it, and restart the podcast.

If you are gadget-minded you are now thinking: “Wireless earbuds!” But no thanks. The last thing I need in my life is more devices to keep track of, charge, and sync with other devices.

I was about to order a new MuVo, and I might still; it’s one of my favorite gadgets ever. But on a recent hike, in a remote area with nobody else around, I suddenly realized I didn’t need the headset at all. I yanked it out, stuck the phone in my pocket, and could hear perfectly well. Bonus: Nothing jammed into my ears.

It’s a bit weird when I do encounter other hikers. Should I pause the audio or not when we cross paths? So far I mostly do, but I don’t think it’s a big deal one way or another.

Adding more devices to solve a device problem amounts to doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I want to remain alert to the possibility that subtracting devices may be the right answer.

There’s a humorous coda to this story. It wasn’t just the headset that was failing to seat securely in the Lightning port. Charging cables were also becoming problematic. A friend suggested a low-tech solution: use a toothpick to pull lint out of the socket. It worked! I suppose I could now go back to using my wired headset on hikes. But I don’t think I will.